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Execution methods...
blaisepascal
There is apparently a desire to make state-sanctioned executions in the US painless and humane. As such, various previous methods of execution have fallen out of favor because they are either slow and painful, or can be slow and painful when botched. The gas chamber, electrocution, hanging, all have that problem. Lethal injection was supposed to solve those problems, but evidence is showing that the States tend to botch the protocol, and that it is very possible that the prisoner ends up paralyzed and in serious pain before death. So some states are suspending execution by lethal injection while this is all worked out. The developer of the protocol has disavowed it, and vets say they wouldn't use that protocol to euthanize animals.

A State Senator in NH is proposing to bring back firing squads, as research seems to indicate that it is essentially quicker and less painful than lethal injection, especially lethal injection done wrong. It takes on average 2 minutes to die from firing squad, 9 to die from lethal injection.

If quick and painless is the goal, what's wrong with Madame Guillotine?

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Yes, Off with their heads I say!

Because Madame Guillotine is not always quick and painless. There's lots of ways for that blade to screw up a beheading. I did a report on that in high school. It was lots of fun.

Did you hear about the doctor who was sentenced to the guillotine and blinked fifteen times while his head was being displayed to the crowd?


I like the firing squad idea, especially if they shoot in the head.

I think the guillotine would be rather messy, no? And I suspect that the blade could get stuck somehow (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong eventually).

I guess an argument could be why should it be quick and painless? I imagine that one must have done horrendous things in order to get the death penalty. I don't know if they give the death penalty for tax evasion, do they?

bloodsong1 says that there have been incidents with guillotines where it didn't work properly and lead to long deaths, but I haven't read any reports of such (of course, it's hard to google for). I also imagine that a guillotine designed and built out of modern materials and modern engineering could be made more reliable than the classic wooden model.

I don't have a problem with "messy", per se. Virtually all executions have a certain amount of messiness (usually the condemned are fitted with diapers, for instance). The device, and the execution chamber, would have to be designed with ease of cleaning in mind, but no more than a lot of other equipment and facilities.

When the guillotine was in major use, the executions were public and the "grand guignol" aspect was desired. However, it should be possible to minimize that effect, as would be desired today. It isn't necessary for the observers today to see any gore to verify that the deed was done.

The death penalty in the US is pretty much limited to murder. Last year the Supreme Court overturned a death sentence for child rape, effectively banning the death penalty for non-homicide crimes against individuals.


I guess an argument could be why should it be quick and painless? I imagine that one must have done horrendous things in order to get the death penalty. I don't know if they give the death penalty for tax evasion, do they?

Part of the issue is that we are supposed to be a nation that doesn't "do" torture. (Okay, quit laughing, you in the back there. I know, I know.)

Another part of the problem--and this is the issue I have with the death penalty, that has nothing to do with whether it's just or whether it's appropriate as a punishment--is that in the US, most often we execute people for being poor and black. A poor person is many times more likely to be sentenced to death than a wealthy person who's convicted of the same crime, and a black person is many times more likely to be sentenced to death than a white person who's convicted of the same crime. Issues of guilt or innocence don't seem to be terribly relevant; depending on who you ask, and what part of the country you're in, it's arguable that anywhere from 2% to 10% of the people on Death Row aren't actually guilty of the crime for which they were convicted.

The guillotine is also messy, and we Americans don't much have the stomach for messy. The head rolling about while a ten-foot-long gout of blood gushes across the execution chamber doesn't sit well with us.

If they wanted quick and painless, nitrogen flooding would do it. Just fill the room with nitrogen,a nd the person wouldn't feel a thing--he'd simply be switched off like a light.

I would argue that "humane" excludes decapitation just for the fact that it leaves you in two pieces.

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